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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Wealth Gap Between White and Black Households in the US Surpasses the One in Apartheid-Era South Africa

Posted by on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Nicholas Kristof:

The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)
This inequality was almost nowhere mentioned during the Occupy moment. Indeed, the "black-white income gap" today is wider than it was in 1967. That bad check the March on Washington was all about worth even less in 2014. The Golden Age of Capitalism missed excluded black Americans. The Golden Age of Capitalism missed a large part of black America. Thomas Piketty:
Inequality reached its lowest ebb in the United States between 1950 and 1980: the top decile of the income hierarchy claimed 30 to 35 percent of US national income, or roughly the same level as in France today. This is what Paul Krugman nostalgically refers to as “the America we love”—the America of his childhood. In the 1960s, the period of the TV series Mad Men and General deGaulle, the United States was in fact a more egalitarian society than France (where the upper decile’s share had increased dramatically to well above 35 percent), at least for those US citizens whose skin was white.
During this Golden Age, white Americans relocated to the suburbs and abandoned black Americans in the inner city. The government also ended its pre-World War Two commitments to urban public housing and redirected its resources to the suburbs: roads, generous tax breaks, and long-term home loans (the 30-year mortgage was not devised by the market but by the government).

Some turn to the 90s (the Clinton-era) as evidence of economic progress (low unemployment) for black Americans—but this was all an illusion. The prison population in 1970 was below 300,000; in the 1990s it approached 2 million (the population of the US in 1970 was 200 million; by 1990, it was 300 million). Black males make up half of the prison population (1 million), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not include those who are sitting in cells doing nothing in its unemployment figures (Read Punishment and Inequality by the Harvard sociologist Bruce Western). But the story is not over yet.

Things are only going to get worse because since the 90s, black Americans have, in greater and greater numbers, been forced out to suburbs like Ferguson at the very moment the market and white Americans are returning to the core of the city, and the core is where the jobs are...

  • CM

Nicholas Kristof points out that white Americans do not want to hear about this problem. They think the story of inequality and race is getting more attention than it deserves...
MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.


Comments (30) RSS

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You're quoting Nicholas Kristof and admitting it?
Posted by Confluence on September 2, 2014 at 10:54 AM · Report this
The "America We Love" was a fiction. At that time America was supplying the entire world with industrial goods. In some areas, like Boeing in aerospace, that market share reached as high as 90%!! America then was like an entire country of 1%ers. We were Belgium and the world was the Congo.

Nicholas Kristof points out that white Americans do not want to hear about this problem.

Most people today in any income strata except the top of the top feel like they are paid less than what they are worth. For a struggling middle class person today to be asked to "open their hearts and wallets", is simply ridiculous. We have nothing left to give. This isn't the 1960s, as you point out, where a middle class American lived a kind of royal life, with money and time to consider others less fortunate.

I remember growing up in my middle class neighborhood. For the most part people stuck to themselves. They had their job, their home and their family. They kept it to themselves. Then along came the globalists and everyone was asked to "do what you love" and "leverage the power of your home's equity".

Now all that is left in the path of these locusts is ruination. Should we be the ones to open our doors? We don't even have our own doors anymore!!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on September 2, 2014 at 10:55 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3
I suspect the usual trolls will comment that it's the black Americans own fault that they're not as well off.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on September 2, 2014 at 11:04 AM · Report this
raindrop 4
Does 'white' mean just Caucasians or Asians as well? I think that Asians are beginning to surpass "whites" in education and income levels according to some stats.
Posted by raindrop on September 2, 2014 at 11:10 AM · Report this
I just gotta say it. What happened to us 99% against the 1%? Is this a diversion to pit us against each other and forget all about that? If so they have won. Come on people, think.
Posted by sueseattle on September 2, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
Those numbers seem impossible ($6k vs $110k??). I'm not saying they are impossible, but that looks crazy. Maybe it would be best to use the median in this case, considering how the mean values are probably influenced by some stratospheric outliers (Bill Gates et al.). For income and related valuations, I think the median might be a less hyperbolic statistic.
Posted by shotsix on September 2, 2014 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Fnarf 8
@2, great analogy there, Einstein: Belgium raped (literally and figuratively) the Congo for a century, and grew much of its own wealth on stealing both resources and people from that country.

Which is exactly what we have done to our black population for 400 years. The Golden Age didn't "miss" black people; it was built upon their backs. The subsidies that built the suburbs were in part taken from black people who were never permitted to partake of their own tax dollars. The slums that whites forced blacks to live in were built for that purpose, which was an economic one -- blacks typically paid MORE -- sometimes double or triple -- for grotesquely substandard housing. Even today, neighborhoods with high concentrations of black people pay twice as much for the same grocery basket as white neighborhoods do, because there are no supermarkets.
Posted by Fnarf on September 2, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Report this
@2, If we're talking a neighborhood in Queens, it's also possible that they stuck to themselves racially/ethnically and didn't allow people of color to move into the neighborhood less they get a racial epithet painted on their home, or the one they were about to buy.
Posted by neo-realist on September 2, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
simple solution. start at home. Build a wall around the puget sound basin and become a new country. done. were all as rich as a swiss. I can see why you have trouble with good design.
Posted by carsten coolage on September 2, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 11
Here's something else about income inequality. Money buys political power in these fine United States.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on September 2, 2014 at 12:15 PM · Report this

While clearly facetious, I believe this may be a correct strategy in principal. The lowering of tariffs, boundaries and so on, universal systems, one size fits all, the hallmarks of the globalist has in effect been part of the reason the middle class was wiped out. Hence an emerging regionalism could help the problem. While old thinking says "we must" intervene in Ukraine, Syria, Africa. A new thinking advises us to set up ever stronger barriers around ourselves, sealing borders, allowing individual constructs to survive. Using translators and interfaces instead of universal protocols. These things help with security. Babel had its limits and perhaps for a reason.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on September 2, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this

Simple economics.

The Moynihan Report was released in 1965. He has all the progressive credentials. A masters in sociology. A Democratic Senator, Asst. Secretary of Labor under Kennedy and US Ambassador the UN).

At the time, he projected doom that the birth rate of black children was 24% and growing. Today, the rate is 72% and growing. In Chicago that number is now greater than 8-in-10 black children.

Among Asian children (2011 census) the rate is only 11%. Among white children, 29%. Even in Europe, with the benefit of a significant social services net, the average amongst all EU countries is 39%.

If you want to be poor – have a kid when you're young and unmarried.

Further, of the 50 largest cities in America (where there are high concentrations of black poverty), only about one-half (52 percent) of students in the public school system completes high school with a diploma. In Seattle Public Schools, the white graduation rate (2011) was 82.9%. The black graduation rate is 63%.

If you want to be poor –  don't have an education.

Here's the maxim: If you want to be poor – have a kid when you're young, unmarried and don't have an education.

That's not to be insensitive to the amazing numbers of kids who overcome huge obstacles – but many of the wounds of poverty are self-inflicted.

(And if the system needs to be fixed, participation wouldn't hurt. The black voter turnout in Ferguson was 6% in the last municipal election.)
Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 14
Racism is a handy tool to keep the lower classes sniping at each other instead of joining together to load the wealthy onto the tumbrel.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on September 2, 2014 at 1:03 PM · Report this

As for those that think statistics are "trolling" - the numbers in the article cited are for HOUSEHOLD averages.

Independent of race: A household with one working parent versus two working parents is likely to have less wealth --particularly if that one worker is more likely not to have completed school.

If there was vast, systemic, institutional white racism – why would Asians be doing so well? Which one you crackers let them succeed?
Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Brunobär 16
@7 The numbers are indeed problematic, because they include a lot of people with negative net worth (higher debt than assets). This piece explains how these kind of calculations often result in very misleading numbers:…
Posted by Brunobär on September 2, 2014 at 1:27 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 17
"If there was vast, systemic, institutional white racism – why would Asians be doing so well? Which one you crackers let them succeed?"

FDR did what he could to keep them down...
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on September 2, 2014 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Fnarf 18
There is nothing remotely misleading about these numbers. There are millions of black people in America immersed in a poverty so deep that insulated white people have no understanding of it, and always has been.

@13, black people can indeed get ahead -- if they work twice as hard as white people. We've always known this. Black people have to overcome terrible segregated schools even if they follow all your rules, and even if they overcome the lack of adjunct educational opportunities (paying twice the rent of whites means no music lessons) and get to college and graduate they are only able to find career jobs at half the rate of white graduates. This is not the distant past; it is today. The quickest way to get turned down for a job, any job, is to have an "African-American-sounding name", even if your qualifications are twice as good.

@15, Asians have never been segregated from white America in the same way that black people have. Neither have Jews or Italians or Irish or any of the other immigrant groups that became white afterwards. Not even Hispanics, except for Puerto Ricans, i.e., black Hispanics. The experience of African-Americans is unique.
Posted by Fnarf on September 2, 2014 at 1:45 PM · Report this
@18 FNARF, you have an excuse for everything. And your retrospective interpretation of US history is astonishingly poor.

Are you aware that as recently as 1925, Oregon tried to pass the Compulsory Education Act (overturned by the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters), which was engineered to keep Irish and Italians (Catholics) out of Oregon. It was backed by Governor Walter Pierce, and member of the Klu Klux Klan.

Are you even remotely aware that for generations the Irish in America were considered "worse" than blacks.…

African Americans have not proprietary claims to oppression in world history.

Not sure what you mean by "becoming white afterwards." Lemme' guess it means something along the lines of getting married before kids, completing your education, getting a job and stop waiting for someone else to solve your problem.

Appropriately, his name is "Freeman"…
Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
So the entire U.S. socioeconomic system is just one big racist conspiracy to keep minorities down, except for Asians for some reason?

@18 ever hear of the Chinese Exclusion Act? Or the Asiatic Exclusion League in California?
Posted by William F. Fuckley on September 2, 2014 at 3:44 PM · Report this


The schools aren't shitty because their segregated. They're segregated because they're shitty.

If you really want to empower a generation of black people (I'd love to), adopt a school voucher system that allows people to pick the school they want, and the programming it offers, instead of herding them into "districts" and compelling them to eat the gruel of federalized tests at neighborhood level.

Let's liberate the amount of money spent on each kids' education from the property taxes paid by mom & dad. And let's turn the table around. Instead of having a school imposed on you, how about making parents be agents in choosing the school for their kid, with open enrollment independent of where the kid lives.

How come "liberals" are pro-choice on marriage, abortion, drugs – but not on education?

(Hint: Because its not about education. Its about resource control and the indoctrination of a dependent voting class.)
Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Fnarf 24
@20, you're simply mistaken. The Irish were never "worse than blacks", though it has long been popular for Irish-Americans to imagine that they were. Those "No Irish, No Dogs, No Blacks" signs are a fiction; they never existed. Discrimination? Rude portrayals in popular media? Sure. But not like African-Americans.

If you read ACTUAL history, instead of whatever the fuck "Victoriana Magazine" is, you will see that the concentration of Irish and Italian immigrants never remotely approached the segregation indexes of black people. Read Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton's "American Segregation" for proof of this. It is dense with statistical analysis at the individual census tract level. No Irish or Italian neighborhood in any large city in the US ever approached the level of segregation that blacks have suffered and continue to suffer today. 80% or 90% black neighborhoods have always been common in Northern cities; no Irish or Italian (or Jewish) neighborhood has ever approached 50%.

@22, again: yes, discriminatory policies. But never at the level blacks suffered. White riots attacking Asian neighborhoods occurred but were never commonplace; there were thousands of them attacking black families.

I can suggest some more books for you to read but you won't be able to get through the Massey, so why bother?

@23, no voucher system that brought black students into all-white schools has ever been proposed, nor would one ever be accepted by white parents. Vouchers, like every other "creative" educational scheme, are just a way to siphon more dollars out of black schools and into those of whites.

Posted by Fnarf on September 2, 2014 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Fnarf 25
An actual historian on the subject of "No Irish Need Apply":…

Rather more convincing than "Victoriana Magazine". Maybe you've got something you can cite from Royalty Magazine, or Majesty, or one of those? Hello? Us Weekly?
Posted by Fnarf on September 2, 2014 at 5:06 PM · Report this
If you had half a clue you'd understand that the article I provided referenced the coverage of Harper's Weekly (the largest national periodical in US circulation from 1867 – 1911). Not some fringe publication.

And you conveniently ignore the abundance of case law, social practice and public policy to discriminate against the Irish and Italians – 

The Know Nothing Party of 1854
The American Protective Association

- because the provenance of NINA trinkets is SUCH a better arbiter of history. In fact, the phrase was "None Need Apply But Americans"

And maybe you don't understand what "vouchers" are. There wouldn't be "black" schools or "white" schools. Or "black neighborhood" schools and "white neighborhood" schools. There would be schools. And parents could choose the one they wanted to go to, and all of the money allocated to that school would move with the kid. As a means of rational self-interest, schools will become what parents (individually and collectively) expect. They would have, effectively, 'customers' to keep happy. Don't like the school? Change it. No room at another school – organize and demand another. Want more STEM classes? Give up something else. Want drama & music more than football? Pick the school that has it.

Seems impossible? Its what already works (exceptionally well) in most developed countries that have far better outcomes for much less money.

FNARF – you're exactly the kind of excuse-dispensing intellectual lightweight that makes people insensitive to circumstances where there is real racism. Keep spinning your tales of woe. The world is accelerating faster and faster, leaving small-minded race dealers to be irrelevant to the formation of new, global social, economic and political constructs.

Racial politics of the '60's and '70s, and cultural politics of '90s – are no match for the speed of what's happening. Which is why Black Americans who still subscribe to the pandering victimization narrative of The Reverends are falling further and further behind in the world.
Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 5:47 PM · Report this
@27 You are wrong about the level of choice in other countries. The best school system right now appears to be in Finland. It has neighborhood schools that are mandatory for all, no vouchers, and much higher paid (and respected) teachers than in the U.S. It DOES adopt the idea you mention of using the income tax instead of the property tax for funding, and spreading the costs out evenly among all schools. And no, the other superior school systems do NOT have school choice allowing schools to fail, the way that has occurred here.
The charter schools you champion have been tried in a dozen U.S. cities now; some did better and others did worse than the public schools they replaced, with no net benefit on average, and they cost the taxpayers more. Americans of all stripes have, for better or worse, insisted on neighborhood schools at the elementary level (I'm guessing you are probably too young to remember the riots over busing 50 years ago), so your model of "letting lousy schools fail and make the neighborhood send its kids elsewhere" is a tough sell politically. I'm also not sure how you think that poor kids are supposed to get out to where the best schools are when their parents don't have cars.
Posted by Biologist in the stix on September 2, 2014 at 7:53 PM · Report this

Ah yes, the famous Finnish teachers meme:…

What's comical about the Left is that they always take Nordics as examples of "what to do" – not taking into account the unique (and temporal) characteristics that shape their performance.

Finland is 89.1% white Finns, The largest non-Finnish ethnicity is Swedes @5.34%. The largset non-white race in Finland is Somali, 0.29%.

Charter schools are often massively handicapped by disrict policies seeking to assure their failure. (Note that Seattle's first and only charter school to open this week is FirstPlace, designed to serve homeless students for whom there is no control group for comparison, and extreme external variables to isolate performance. (You think that's by coincidence?)

The also misstate the performance of charter schools, relying on dated (and convenient) views.……

You're entitled to think charter schools are no better. But there are now 7,000 schools nationwide and parents lined-up screaming to get in. Are they wrong? Shouldn't poor black kids have the same access to choice as affluent white kids? Why are you against choice, even if it wouldn't be your choice? (And how is that different from fundamentalists on the issues of abortion and gay marriage?)

Posted by Zok on September 2, 2014 at 10:15 PM · Report this
Charter schools should do BEST when they're serving the students from the worst districts, whose parents would undoubtedly prefer a choice. Why shouldn't Seattle start there?
I don't understand your dismissal of Finland as having a more homogeneous society than the U.S. Are you trying to say that letting affluent whites have their own homogenous whites-only schools is the only way their kids can learn well?
Citing the NYT saying that Charter Schools don't suck as much as they used to is hardly a ringing endorsement. (And sorry, citing the WSJ is about as valid as citing Huffington Post - in recent years, that paper has published stories claiming that creationism is more valid than evolution, not to mention their rampant climate change denial; it is no longer the fact-based journal that it was 20 years ago).
I didn't say that Finnish teachers are paid like doctors. They are paid better than most American teachers, and most Finnish teachers have master's degrees, and are accorded more societal respect than American teachers; according to Smithsonian. And, in the last 10 years, their students have done better at reading, math, and science than our students have.…
Actually, I live in a town where there is no choice. There are the public schools and nothing else, unless you want to drive your kid 40 miles or more. As a result, the schools here are generally quite good. I notice that in the places with more choice, the public schools are more likely to suck. When there is no choice, the public is more likely to support public schools that work, because otherwise their own kids won't get a good education.

The free market works wonders for providing lots of amazing goods to people who can afford them, and is great at reducing prices, and it's the way to go for many, perhaps most things, but it does a terrible job of providing things that society deems should be available to everyone equally: e.g. highways, water supplies, vaccines, elementary and secondary education, police protection, basic health care, medical research, food inspections, national parks, good air quality.
Posted by Biologist in the stix on September 2, 2014 at 11:58 PM · Report this
Brunobär 32
@19 Including negatives in averages will produce misleading results not only when talking about relative change but also absolutes, like savings (see link below). That is not to say that the wealth gap between black and white in America is not huge, but that the concrete figure given is almost meaningless (and the comparison with Apartheid-era SA is problematic as well because there were probably a lot fewer blacks with large negative net worth in SA as they could hardly get loans at all).…
Posted by Brunobär on September 3, 2014 at 1:01 AM · Report this


Yes, public schools score "better" when there is no choice –because smart kids and motivated parents tend to find alternatives as soon as they fucking can.

By trapping aspiring, smart though often-poor black kids in "the district," they make the schools appear competent, by raising the averages, while robbing the individual kids of the opportunity to reach their full potential.

You're sacrificing individuals for the sake of making a system appear functional.

White, affluent suburban kids – afforded better schools (curricular, social and environmental) – who also have private school choice would, understandably, trend to doing better. Why do "progressives" feel compelled to eliminate choice for black kids, in the interest of preserving a system which has fundamentally failed for decades no matter how much more money we spend compared to the rest of the developed world.

Im still waiting for a decent answer to the following:

Of all the direct benefit programs paid-out by governement:

Social Security
Food Stamps
Section 8

All of them are cash or vouchers that permit you to go find the best solution that works for you. Pick your grocery store. Choose a doctor. Choose a qualified home or apartment.

Except education.

You pretty much have to go to the school nearest you. Your choice is at best narrow, and entirely monopolistic.

Why not give poor black students the same degree of choice and mobility enjoyed by white affluent suburban kids?
Posted by Zok on September 3, 2014 at 10:37 AM · Report this
lark 35
@31 & 34,
Good discussion. I'm learning a lot.
Posted by lark on September 3, 2014 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Highways – Of the 11,000 kms of highway in France, 8,000 kms are private companies. The M6 Motorway in Britain in privately owned. In the first three decades of the 19th century Americans built more than 10,000 miles of private highway – more than the federal Interstate Highway System after WW2.

15% of America's drinking water comes from private

We (had) the world's most technologically advanced healthcare system because it was (until recently) largely free market. In fact, government bureaucratic costs, mandates and coercive pricing drove costs.

Elementary and secondary education: America's best schools are private. Our University system, generally regarded as he world's finest, was founded as private schools, and remains 18% private schools. Its best schools are private (Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, U Chicago, Duke.). Even the "University of Pennsylvania" is private.

Medical research: Almost 75% of U.S. clinical trials in medicine are paid for by private companies.

Food inspections and police are regulatory functions.

Pretty sure anyone could run the national & state parks better. Most park concessions (hotels, restaurants, guides, transport etc.) are privately run businesses.

Posted by Zok on September 3, 2014 at 2:37 PM · Report this

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